by Peter James adapted Shaun McKenna.
Tour to 2 May 2015.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 13 April at Theatre Royal Nottingham.
Uneven plotting, but fun all the same.
Thrusting property developer Michael (Jamie Lomas) has been the brains behind some irresponsibly madcap stag-night pranks in the past. So now he’s about to marry his tasty secretary Ashley (Tina Hobley) his pals decide to get their own back; they’ll pretend to bury him alive. But it goes horribly wrong. The first and much the better half of this adaptation of Peter James’ thriller Dead Simple is the stuff of nightmares.
By interval time we have our villain, and the picture of what he or she is trying to do; and we’re wondering if he or she will get away with it. It’s no forgone conclusion: the opposition in the shape of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Gray O’Brien) and sidekick Detective Sergeant Branson (Marc Small) is formidable. So far so good.
Then the plot goes haywire. It becomes inappropriately gory, the body count gets out of hand, and there’s a twist and turn overload.
All the characters but one are good-looking. Invariably half-dressed regardless of strict plot demands, Hobley’s Ashley Harper is excellent. As is Lomas’s Michael, especially in the claustrophobic situation alluded to earlier. And Rik Makarem is very good as shifty business partner Mark. There’s a nice touch of comedy in the interplay between Grace and Branson – true to cop cliché, they both have difficult private lives.
Most interesting is Davey, the non-looker, brilliantly played by Josh Brown. An autistic youth, he’s hopelessly caught up in the world of American computer games to the point where he doesn’t know what’s for real and what’s make-believe. The alternation between Davey’s trailer-trash speak and his natural British English is well done.
A clever set design incorporates all essential elements including Michael’s up-market and horribly contemporary Brighton apartment – in this sort of caper they’re never called flats.
Unlike your golden-age thriller, which wouldn’t work in an age of mobiles, Dead Simple wouldn’t work without them. And it’s not classic theatre stuffed with symbolism and poetry. Nor does it pack a message, except that you should try to be good. Or failing that, not get caught.
But it’s fun all the same.
Michael Harrison: Jamie Lomas.
Mark Warren: Rik Makarem.
Ashley Harper: Tina Hobley.
Bradley Cunningham: Michael McKell.
Robbo: Alan Freestone.
Pete: David Alderman.
Davey Wheeler: Josh Brown.
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace: Gray O’Brien.
Detective Sergeant Branson: Marc Small.
Zoe Frame: Sarah Baxendale.
Vic: Joe Chloue.
The Man: Alan Freestone.
Director: Ian Talbot.
Designer/Costume: Michael Taylor.
Lighting: Mark Howett.
Sound: Martin Hodgson.
Music advisor: Laura Tisdall.